The Academy of Finland has selected the "iCAN Digital Precision Cancer Medicine" competence cluster as one of Finland's six flagships. The iCAN public-private partnership forms a platform aiming to improve the treatment of cancer patients and to support innovations coming from high quality research.
Cancer research at the genetic and molecular level has already enabled new targeted therapies. At the same time it has revealed the complexity and diversity of cancer - we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Identification of new significant treatment targets in cancer cells and their supporting normal tissue requires development of a precision cancer medicine toolbox.
"The iCAN flagship leverages on the unique strengths Finland has in the areas of top-level cancer research, various registers and digital health. We will for example collect gene function and drug sensitivity data from isolated tumor cells and cancer cells grown outside of the human body and combine these with digital health/lifestyle data obtained during treatment or provided by the patients themselves. Data mining is also developed by utilization of artificial intelligence. The new knowledge obtained should provide a basis for development of the right treatment for each patient," says the director of the iCAN flagship, Academy Professor Kari Alitalo from the University of Helsinki.
The iCAN flagship was awarded 11 million euros from the Academy of Finland for the first four year period. Total funding is aimed to reach an annual level of 51 million euros through commitment of the host organisations and especially through increased business collaborations.
"We believe iCAN will become a global model for integration of digital health/lifestyle data with precision medicine tools. The flagship also emphasizes empowerment of the patients in all parts of the chain from research to treatment. In addition, iCAN enables new health sector innovations and business based on top research at the University of Helsinki. Over twenty pharma and digital health companies have already expressed their interest to join the flagship," notes Rector of the University of Helsinki Jari Niemela.
The interdisciplinary flagship brings together researchers from cancer biology and cancer genomics to machine learning, digital health and clinical research.
"Helsinki University Hospital HUS is strongly committed to taking advantage of digital health data in cancer research in the new iCAN flagship. Our data lake offers a globally unique research infrastructure for data mining and we have the first OECI-accredited Comprehensice Cancer Center in the Nordics. The flagship also supports the regional and national cancer center and the health sector growth strategy," says HUS Chief Medical Office Markku Makijarvi.